No matter how well you prepare for a disaster, you can only speculate as to what will happen. Entire regions could be decimated by natural or manmade disasters and provisions of food, water and fuel will be in short supply, long after the crisis has ended. Using a horse after SHTF will help you survive the same way it helped the early settlers.
I’m following the situation from Puerto Rico since I believe we have a lot to learn from this tragedy. There are long lines for food, water, and fuel and there’s still no electricity for most of the island. The current relief efforts are not going as planned and the island is being denied shipping of fuel. People are struggling to survive, and they are using every resource they have. Horses are a precious commodity, and they are being used for all sorts of work. They carry supplies to isolated communities, and they help with the cleaning efforts by hauling debris.
A good horse was worth a fortune before combustion engine was invented and it seems that their time is not yet over. By reading this article, some people will understand that everyone must have one when disaster strikes. That’s not the case, for many out there that is not an option and they can’t keep a horse in an apartment complex.
However, during a long-term survival scenario, you may very well cross your path with a farm. If you find an abandoned horse, like Rick, did in The Walking Dead, you will rely on it for transportation or work. I advise you to learn a thing or two about horses before that day comes.
My friend Dan Mowinski grew up around horses, and he has an impressive Native American (Piqwacket) heritage. His family trained horses for generations, and he shared with us his top tips for handling horses.
Tips to know before using a horse for survival purposes
Respect the animal
A horse is a powerful animal, but it’s not always a gentle creature as it is portrayed in movies. It helped mankind progress, and we wouldn’t have been here without the labors of horses. A good horse can help you plow a field, drag logs or carry you away from danger. However, it can also trample over you and kick the life out of you. You should always be careful around horses, especially around those you haven’t trained personally. A horse can help you in the aftermath of a disaster, but it can also be a lobately if you don’t act carefully.
Don’t go chasing horses
There’s no point in chasing a panicked horse since it cannot be caught in the open field. You need to approach it slowly and offer some food such as grain, oats or corn as a sign of goodwill. Start by getting the animal’s attention and then stand still. Shake the bucket with food until the horse realizes it contains what it needs. You will need some time and patience because sooner or later, the horse will approach you.
Don’t rush the horse
You need to lead the horse before riding it. If the horse doesn’t cooperate with a lead rope and halter, you have slim chances of getting on his back. Dan used to pick up stallions and test their confidence level. Most of the stallions would not let him near them with a saddle. It took him months of lead rope work and lots of carrots and apples to finally ride them.
Always check the hooves
When picking out a horse from a farm or small herd, make sure you check out the hooves. You should always pick the one that has the best-looking hooves or the one with trimmed hooves. The horse that has been ridden the most should have good looking feet. “No hooves, no ride” is a general rule, and Dan said to rule out the horses with cracked, split and long rolled-up hooves.
Know your animal
You should be able to make the difference between a mule and a horse. A mule is not a horse, it is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, and they are stubborn beasts. They have a difficult character, and unless you’re a horse whisperer, you should pass them. Many pioneers were seriously injured or even killed after being hit by a mule. In fact, many believe that the expression “kicked in the head by a mule” was born back then.
Related reading: Survival Lessons From The Native Americans
A horse can be quite skittish
You should make sure that you didn’t pick a nervous or excitable horse. There’s a simple test you can do to see if your horse can be easily scared. All you need to do is wave a plastic bag in front of the horse. If the horse bucks, bolts or rears when seeing the bag, you will have a hard time riding it. Chances are you will be thrown to the ground, and you will be watching as your horse flees with all your gear.
Don’t shoot from a horseback
It’s not like in the movies, where you see people riding and shooting at the same time. You need to be sure your horse is gun-broke before you fire your gun from the saddle or across the animal. Most horses get easily started by gunfire, and it takes a lot of work to get them used to that specific sound. Chances are you will not find such a horse at every farm you stumble upon.
It is all about the speed
If you want to move undetected, a horse might not be a good fit for you. Such animal is designed for speed and not stealth. Think about it like this, when you get into the saddle, you become a much bigger target, and you cannot conceal your presence. You will stand out most of the times, and you will leave tracks that are easier to follow.
Taking care of your horse
Your horse cannot be an integral part of your survival plan if not care for properly. It needs a good amount of food and rest, just like you. The basic diet for most horses should be grass and good quality hay, free of dust and mold. In most cases, plenty of fresh, clean, unfrozen water should be available at all times, even if it only drinks once or twice a day. It also needs protection from the elements, and its hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks. Not to mention that horses’ teeth grow continuously. It requires maintenance work if you want to keep it healthy and happy.
Can you eat it?
As a last resort, you may need to eat the animal. First of all, you need to know that horse meat tastes differently than beef. Sure, you may get used to the taste after a while, and you can even enjoy this source of protein in a bad scenario, but that’s not all. And second, you also have to pay attention to the type of horse you plan on eating. There are certain horses (like barrel or race horses) that are often given powerful painkillers. These will not be a wise choice for your diet. To be on the safe side, pick the old ones that are grazing on the pasture.
A final word
Horses helped build today’s civilization, and progress wouldn’t have been possible without their help. They are an incredible survival tool although not widely available. A good horse will worth a fortune during a long-term survival scenario. Don’t expect to encounter trained horses everywhere when it hits the fan and learn how to care for, saddle and ride a horse from the experts. You don’t need to know everything about these animals, but you should at least have a clue of what to expect when dealing with one.